This Is How Horror Films Feature Children Without Traumatising Them

Children feature in many horror films, but is there a way to protect them from the more intensely scary scenes? Apparently so.

As somebody who absolutely loves kids and thinks they’re great fun, there is nothing scarier in a horror film than some spooky kids. There is something uniquely terrifying about those innocent little faces being present in a horror film that I just can’t shake off.

With this in mind, I’ve always wondered just how scary the children playing these roles find their jobs? Are they also chilled to the bone? Do they understand the impact that they’re having on full-blown adults with their acting?

Well, the answer is complicated.

Are child actors traumatised by their roles in horror films?

Well, let’s start with one of the most iconic child actors: Danny Lloyd who played Danny in The Shining, He himself wasn’t all that scary but his characters was pretty freaked out for the entire film. Rightly so. Me too.

Well, Lloyd actually had no idea that he was starring in a horror film. He wasn’t present for most of the scarier scenes and even when he accidentally arrived to the set for the memorable ‘Here’s Johnny!’ moment, he didn’t know what was happening.

Director Stanley Kubrick had chosen to keep the entire film a secret from him so in Lloyd’s mind, he was just in a drama set in a hotel.

That’s one way of looking at it.

The once-actor now works as a professor in Kentucky but only has fond memories.

The twin sisters from the film did have a scene where they died and there was ‘blood’ splattered around. The make-up artists filled the then 11 year old girls in on what the blood was actually made of and gave them their own bottles to take home, which they still have.

These kinds of precautions are quite common, according to Movie Marker. The movie experts said: “The scary parts of the film come during post-production (for example, extra scenery, sound effects, or additional actors). Children have no idea what is going on because everything is so well-disguised.”

This level of protection appears to be a modern phenomenon, as according to The Telegraph, actress Linda Blair actually suffered an injury during filming. Blair, who was 12 at the time, was strapped into a harness that was too loose during the scene. This led to a lower spinal fracture, which Blair dealt with for the rest of her life.

Blair also developed a lifelong aversion to the cold following the filming of The Exorcist. During the exorcism scenes, the room temperature was lowered using an air conditioning system so that the actors’ breath could be visible on film, and Blair, dressed in a nightgown, was nowhere near prepared.

Speaking on the film’s more explicit scenes, The Telegraph reports that Blair said: “I mean, I can’t disagree with people. I can only tell you that I didn’t understand. I never knew what that was about. I thought it was very odd that I had a cross and that I was sticking it in a box saying terrible language. But I have to say that I did not understand.”

The guidelines for protecting children on-set of horror films

According to Omni Productions, there are guidelines filmmakers must follow. They said: “When working with children is important to consider what they will witness whilst on set. It’s vital to shoot in such a way that the child doesn’t witness or get involved with anything inappropriate for their age.

“You often see children in horror films but watch closely and you’ll see they’re never in the same shot, directly witnessing any violence or spectacle. You might see their reaction or the back of their head in shot (most likely a stand in or double), but at the time of filming – presuming the production did its job in protecting them – would have kept the child away from any adult content.”

So, in short, you should be scared but the children never should be. Seems about right.


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